BY: Gerry Cantlon, Special to Howlings
The Hartford Wolf Pack roster overhaul continues.
The New York Rangers have signed yet another veteran for a team that is taking on a more veteran/older look than has been seen in the Connecticut capitol in sometime. That’s not to say that youth and development isn’t still the primary core mission for Ken Gernander and his staff, but trying to make the Pack a competitive team all season long, rather than just the first month and the last 25 games as they were last year, is clearly the off season campaign goal.
The latest signee for Hartford is forward Ryan Potulny. Fans will remember Potulny from his time playing with their I-91 rivals in Springfield.
Potulny played last season in Hershey after not signing until December 22nd. He tallied three goals and seven assists (ten points) in 38 games. Potulny can play all three forward spots, but it would seem that the organization has the veteran targeted for an upgrade at the center slot. With 408 games under his belt, Potulny qualifies as a veteran.
Rangers training camp looks to be highly competitive for the fourth line center slot which also encompasses PK duty. JT Miller, the recently signed Matt Lombardi – who has serious NHL games under his belt, as well as Chris Mueller -who was signed from the AHL Calder Cup Champion Texas Stars, the Pack’s Oscar Lindberg and Potulny will all get a chance to audition for that role.
By default, a position Hartford has had issues over the past several years, will invariably be stronger when the season kicks off in October.
Potulny’s brother, Grant, is an assistant coach at Wolf Pack’s head coach Ken Gernander’s alma mater University of Minnesota.
NEW COACH ADDED IN NEW YORK
New Rangers assistant coach Darryl Williams has Connecticut ties. He played with the AHL New Haven Nighthawks from (1988-1991) playing 136 games with 28 goals and 58 points and 495 PM. He also spent nine years in the old IHL playing 540 games with 98 goals 224 points and 1,906 PM.
The Rangers are his 15th city between his junior and pro career. He spent the last six years as a Vancouver Canucks assistant coach. His role included being in charge of video and he lost his job there as part of the entire coaching staff that was purged in the spring housecleaning after John Tortorella’s era ended.
Williams was an assistant coach for two years with the AHL Cincinnati Ducks (2002-2004) and played half a season of junior hockey in Canada’s western most city, Victoria, BC (WHL 1985-86). He returned as assistant coach to his native Newfoundland, the eastern most province and city, St. John’s, for one season with the defunct QMJHL team, the Fog Devils in 2006-2007.
LOTS OF CHANGES IN TEXAS
The Texas Stars will become the 14th AHL team owned and operated team by their NHL parent club, the Dallas Stars. The Stars parent holding company, Northland Properties, will purchase the team currently operating under the business title, Hicks Cedar Park LLC.
This completes the long and complicated bankruptcy of former Dallas Stars owner, Tom Hicks. The AHL team was not a part of his Hicks Sports Group, but was under his children’s names exempting them from the situation. Dallas was purchased by Tom Gagliardi and are now in the process of consolidating their operations, which this move was part of.
Former New Haven Senator Scott White, the current Stars GM and Director of Player Development, will continue in that role for the Austin, Texas based team.
The only change in store for the Texas Stars will be a uniform upgrade next season to the current Dallas ‘victory green” color scheme for the defending AHL Calder Cup champs. The Kelly-Green based uni’s are currently one of the NHL’s best sellers. Personally, any uniform that isn’t centered around some form of black, like so many other pro sports teams seem to be going to, is nice to see.
- The Regina Leader-Post reports that former Wolf Pack head coach, and all time top AHL coach, John Paddock, has been hired as the WHL Regina Pats new head coach.
- The Rangers renewed their Double AA ECHL affiliation with the Greenville Road Warriors for two more years. Hartford and Greenville have been together since the Road Warriors inception in 2010 after the Charlotte Checkers moved from the ECHL to the AHL. The Road Warriors also signed forward Justin Vaive to a new one year deal. Its kind of a surprise after Vaive played so well down the stretch for the Wolf Pack that he didn’t earn an AHL deal. he would seem to possibly be a victim of the numbers game. Anything can happen though in training camp.
- Former Wolf Pack, Mikael Samuelsson, has returned to Sweden to play for Djurgarden IF in the Swedish Hockey League.
- Former Wolf Pack Tommy Pyatt, who played with Tampa Bay Lightning last year, has signed with HC Geneve (Geneva)-Servette in Switzerland-NLA.
- Jordan Owens, who started last year with the Hamilton Bulldogs and ended the season with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL, heads back over to Europe with SSI Vitipeno in the Italian LIHG in the A Division.
- Former Wolf Pack goalie Chris Holt was let go with Lincoln (USHL) as an assistant coach. Holt will lace up the skates and strap on the pads once again for defending Italian League Serie A champion EV Ritten/Renon. The team features recently re-signed ex-Wolf Pack Patrick Rissmiller.
- One tine Wolf Pack and Sound Tiger defenseman Joel Bouchard owner, president and GM of Blainville-Boisbrand (QMJHL) added one more title, head coach. Bouchard assumed the title Thursday after his head coach, J.F. Houle, signed with Bakersfield (ECHL) as their new head coach.
- Leaving the playing ranks and heading into coaching is former Wolf Pack, Rico Fata, who will be the developmental skills coach for the Soo Batchewana Attack of the brand new Canadian International Hockey League another Junior A type league starting play this fall. The team is located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on the First Nation Reservation.
- Son of Hartford Whaler, Landon Ferraro, has signed a one year two-way (NHL-AHL) deal with Detroit. He spent most of last year in Grand Rapids. Another former Whaler’s son, Jakub Baca, son of Jergus Baca, (Ten games with the Hartford Whalers) has signed with the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League for the 2014-15 season. He played last year in the Slovakia second division with HK 32 Liptovsky.
- The 6’8″ former Sound Tiger defenseman, Joe Finley, signed a one year AHL deal with Hamilton. Foward Joey Martin who played nine games with the Sound Tigers heads to Cardiff, Wales to play in the EIHL. Mark Lee, who’s played the Wolf Pack and Sound Tigers, goes from Schwenniger in the German DEL to Nottingham in England and the EIHL. Former Sound Tiger, Daniel Tetrault, moves over in the Central Hockey League from the defending champion Allen (TX) Americans to the Rapid City (SD) Rush coached by one time Sound Tiger assistant Joe Ferras.
- One-time Springfield Falcon, Todd Gill, who was let go as head coach by the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, was named the first assistant coach with the Adirondack Flames. Springfield tabbed Toby Petersen as its new second assistant coach and one time Falcon, Ben Simon, becomes the second assistant with the Toronto Marlies.
- Springfield signed Mike Hoeffl (Albany Devils) and Hubert Labrie (Texas/Idaho-ECHL) to one year AHL deals.
- Kirill Kabanov, the mercurial Russian winger who lasted just 16 games after an early season arm injury in Bridgeport and who then went to Stockton of the ECHL and closed out the season with MODO (Sweden-SHL), has signed with Swedish team Skelleftea AIK for next season.
- Worcester’s Rob Davidson has retired and begun his coaching career in Austria with EC Salzburg as an assistant coach. Joining him with the Austrian team is Kristoff Kontos, son of former New Haven Nighthawk and New York Ranger, Chris Kontos. You may recall that the younger Kontos, finished up his junior hockey career with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL and ended the year with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
- New Hartford native Mike Cichy signs with Florida (ECHL) after graduating from Western Michigan (NCHC).
- Old Lyme, CT native, Matt Nickerson, has re-signed with the Fife (Scotland) Flyers of the English league EIHL.
- 72 AHL players have now signed with European teams for next season. The latest signees include; Adirondack Phantoms Kyle Flanagan with MODO Sweden while his teammate, Cullen Eddy, joins Sheffield (England-EIHL). Dan DaSilva, who was with Worcester and Ontario (ECHL) signs with Augsburger (Germany-DEL); while Guillaume Desbiens of Lake Erie is off to Austria Dorbirner EC. Chay Genoway is the 9th Hershey Bear to leave to Dynamo Riga (Latvia-KHL).
- Quinnipiac University alum Neil Breen leaves Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL) as an assistant coach to be an assistant coach with the Tri-City Storm (USHL).
- Former Hotchkiss Prep star goalie Zane Kalemba moves over from HC Banska Bystricka (Slovakia-SLEL) to Rungsted IK (Denmark-DHL).
- Eric Esposito, of West Haven, who played at Loomis Chaffe Prep School last year, which won the New England small prep school title in the spring, has given an oral commitment to the University New Hampshire for 2015-16 will play with Youngstown (OH) Phantoms (USHL) this year. His younger brother, Alex, also played at Loomis Chaffe has committed for the University of Vermont (HE) for 2016-17.
- At the US World Junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, New York, Quinnipiac University defenseman and fifth round Phoenix draft pick, Connor Clifton, was cut along with 14 others prior to a weekend slate of three exhibition games against Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. Yale University sophomore John Hayden did make the cut, but incoming Yale freshmen Ryan Hitchcock was not.
- North Branford’s, Adam Erne, (Tampa Bay) didn’t participate because of a wrist injury and Cole Cassels, son of former Whaler Andrew, and a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, also did not participate because of an illness.
- The Finnish team will feature recent Pittsburgh Penguin first round pick Kasperi Kapanen, son of former Whaler, Sami, and Sweden will have William Nylander, Toronto’s first round pick and son of former Whaler/Ranger, Michael, plus Victor Cruz Rydberg who played some games with Bridgeport at the end of season after his Plymouth Whalers (OHL) season ended.
- One time New Haven Nighthawk Dennis Desrosiers returns to the radio booth of the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) doing color commentator.